Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his world all belong to J.K.Rowling. I’m just grateful she lets me play in it from time to time.
Lily was repacking her trunk for the fourth time. James had said not to bring much but you couldn’t trust boys on matters like that. He’d probably bum around in the same smelly T-shirt and jeans for the whole ten days and he didn’t have to worry about impressing his parents.
Sirius had tried to reassure her about meeting the Potters, telling her how kind they’d been to him since he’d run away from home, but that was no good. Sirius was as pureblood as James. He’d know how to behave himself in a wizarding home, even if he never actually did behave himself. Whereas she’d probably make a fool of herself in minutes, doing some stupid Muggle thing. Oh God, better put her dress robes in, just in case. And Advanced Potion Making. James was sure to forget his and she was determined to do some serious revision.
Right. Done. Lily snapped her trunk shut and waved her wand over it to lock it. Sitting back on her heels she sighed. Suddenly a vision of her home sprang into her mind. In spring the garden was filled with daffodils and tulips nodding gaily in the breeze. Her mum would always have the door open, waiting for Lily to get back with her father from King’s Cross. Even Petunia would be there, unwillingly smiling and trying not to look interested in what Lily had been learning. Lily held herself tightly and breathed deeply. She would not cry. She would notcry. Slowly her breathing returned to normal and the picture disappeared. Her Hogwarts bedroom came familiarly into view and she could hear the reassuringly normal voice of James calling up the stairs. Lily smiled and levitated her trunk, grabbing her cloak on the way out.
No-one was there to meet them at the station, so James, Lily and Sirius grabbed their trunks and headed for Diagon Alley. Sirius was renting a flat there but James and Lily were going to the Leaky Cauldron where they could use the Floo network.
‘I’ll see you on Sunday then.’ He waved goodbye and left, looking more cheerful than Lily could ever remember seeing him.
‘Sunday?’ Lily turned to James with a raised eyebrow.
‘He comes for lunch. My parents like to keep an eye on him. Make sure he’s eating properly, that kind of thing.’ James grinned. ‘When he stayed with us last summer, my mum was in heaven, making cakes and pies and cooking vast meals at least three times a day. Somehow, he never seemed to get any less skinny. I think she looked on him as a kind of culinary challenge.’
Lily smiled briefly.
‘Hey.’ James put his arm round her shoulders. ‘What’s that look for?’
She leaned into him. ‘What if they don’t like me?’
He looked stunned, as if the possibility had never occurred to him. ‘Why on earth wouldn’t they like you, sweetheart?’
James frowned. ‘Are you worried they won’t like you because you’re Muggle-born?’
She shrugged again.
‘Right. Now listen to me. Why do you think I care so much about this war? Where do you think I learnt not to judge people because of their families or their backgrounds? Who do you think told me the difference between right and wrong?’
Lily stared at him. His face softened and he leaned in towards her. ‘How do you think I knew what it meant to fall in love?’
Her hand crept up the back of his neck and wound itself into his spiky dark hair.
‘So… you think it’s going to be all right, then?’ she murmured.
‘You idiot, Lily Evans.’ He grinned. ‘They’ll love you, I promise. Now come on, they’ll be wondering what on earth’s happened to us. Have you ever used the Floo network before?’
She shook her head.
‘Okay. I’ll go first. You just sprinkle this powder here. Then step in and say where you want to go. And keep your arms and legs in tight. And don’t try to get out until it’s stopped. Okay?’
She nodded. ‘James…’
He paused, holding the Floo powder in one hand.
‘I just wanted to say… thanks. For everything.’ She tried to smile and put out a hand to touch his arm. ‘I love you so much.’
He blushed and nodded awkwardly before disappearing into the fireplace.
Lily stumbled out of the grate coughing and spluttering soot everywhere. She stifled a yelp as her knee banged into the corner of her trunk. A strong arm grabbed hold of her and hoisted her to her feet. Embarrassed, Lily began to wipe the soot from her clothes.
‘Don’t worry about that, dear,’ said a calm, friendly voice. ‘It’s always tricky the first few times. You’ll soon get the hang of it. Now, just stand still a moment. Scourgify.’ The smudges and smuts lifted instantly from Lily’s clothes and face and she put up a hand to smooth her hair back into place.
‘Thank you,’ she said with some relief. ‘I’m sorry about your carpet.’
‘Nonsense, dear.’ With another flick of her wand, Mrs Potter dealt with all the debris Lily had dragged out of the Floo Network.
‘Now, let me say hello properly.’ Before she knew it, Lily was being warmly hugged by a tall, thin, middle-aged woman who smelt alarmingly of castor oil. ‘It’s so lovely to have you with us, dear. I hope you’ll have a wonderful holiday.’
‘Th…thank you,’ stammered Lily, a little taken aback.
Mrs Potter released her and Lily turned to the two men on the other side of the fireplace. She ignored James, who was grinning wickedly at her, and instead held out her hand to his father.
‘Pleased to meet you, my dear. We’ve heard so much about you, over the years.’ Lily raised an eyebrow at James but returned Mr Potter’s greeting.
‘Now, I expect you two are hungry, aren’t you?’ James was certainly doing a good impression of a man who hadn’t eaten for weeks, but Mrs Potter held out her arm to Lily. ‘Come on through, lunch should be ready by now. You can sort your things out later.’
The kitchen table was groaning with pumpkin pasties and cauldron cakes and the cauldron was giving off the most wonderful smell.
‘Chicken soup, dear?’
Lunch in the Potter household was a lively occasion. James was telling his parents everything which had happened at school that term. Mrs Potter kept interrupting him with questions about Peter, Sirius and Remus whilst Mr Potter seemed more interested in precisely what Dumbledore had told the school. There were lots of laughs as James did impressions of his headmaster being grim and serious and every so often Lily joined in.
While James was busy reassuring his mother that Sirius was planning to come for lunch on Sunday, Mr Potter placed his hand over Lily’s.
‘James told us about your mother, and what’s happened. Just want you to know, my dear, that Mrs Potter and I hope very much that you’ll come to think of this place as your home and us as your family now.’ She looked up at his thin face, so like James’s, with such kindly brown eyes and found that her own eyes were filled with tears. He patted her cheek and she managed a watery smile.
‘So what are you two planning for this afternoon?’ Mrs Potter’s cheerful voice made Lily swallow her tears and look helplessly across at James. He smiled reassuringly before turning to answer his mother.
‘Well, this afternoon, I am going to fulfil a long-held ambition of mine.’
Everyone looked surprised, wondering what on earth it could be. Lily felt her stomach start to squirm nervously. She was fairly sure that whatever this ambition was, it was going to involve her.
‘That’s nice, dear,’ said James’s mother. ‘What is it?’
He was grinning at Lily now. ‘I’m going to teach this girl how to fly. Properly. And then we’ll start on Quidditch.’
‘No.’ Lily was firm.
‘Well, dear, perhaps if she doesn’t want to…’
‘She does want to. She’ll love it, she just doesn’t know it yet.’ James was firm.
Mr Potter winked at Lily. ‘You’ve got your work cut out with this one, my dear. Stubborn as his mother sometimes. Right, I’m back to work. Pleasure to meet you, Lily.’ Planting a kiss on his wife’s cheek, he Disapparated.
‘I don’t want to,’ Lily repeated, arms crossed and ready for a fight.
‘Sure.’ James shrugged.
‘Now look, James…’ Lily began.
‘I really think…’ started Mrs Potter. The two of them stopped, politely indicated that the other should continue, both started together again, then subsided into silence.
‘Right. I’ll just get the brooms then, shall I?’, announced James, grinning cockily at his mother and his girlfriend, knowing exactly how to twist them both around his little finger.
He returned in less time than it took for Mrs Potter to tell Lily how James had learned to fly when he was five, without his father knowing.
‘Come on, then.’ James winked at Lily who scowled back. ‘Nice sunny day. Don’t want to hang about inside.’ He held out his Nimbus 250 and Lily reluctantly accepted it from him.
‘Don’t you want any help clearing up, Mrs Potter?’ she tried in a last ditch attempt.
‘No, that’s quite all right, dear, Dilly has it under control.’ Mrs Potter waved a hand in the direction of the house-elf who nodded and smiled. ‘Though it’s very kind of you to offer.’ She directed a reproachful glance at her impatient son who already had the back door open and was tapping his foot, waiting for Lily.
‘I’m no good,’ she muttered as she walked past him.
‘I know,’ replied James patiently. ‘That’s why I’m going to teach you.’
They kicked off. James immediately soared up into the air, screened from the view of any passing Muggles by some very high pine trees. Lily hovered a few feet above the ground, her teeth clenched and her knuckles white around the handle of her broomstick.
He swooped down beside her and looked at her critically. ‘Well it’s not your posture, though your knees could be a bit tighter. Nor your grip, though you don’t actually have to strangle the poor thing.’ She gave him a quelling look. Unconcerned, he continued, ‘So it must be your mind. What’s the matter? Scared of heights?’
‘If you must know, yes. So what if I am?’ She looked at him, challengingly.
He laughed. ‘Lily Evans afraid of something? I’m not sure if I believe it.’
‘Look, if you’re just going to laugh at me, I’m going.’ Hesitantly she aimed her broom for the ground but before she hit the grass, James had come alongside her and grabbed her broom so that he was flying it together with his own. He brought them both up, a couple of feet higher than Lily felt comfortable with, then let go of her stick so that he could put an arm around her shoulders.
‘Sorry. I didn’t realise it really frightened you. I didn’t mean to make you upset.’ Since he followed this up with a quick squeeze and a kiss, Lily felt inclined to believe him. ‘Here’s what we’ll do. You just need to get used to the height and learn to trust the broom. Climb over here in front of me.’
She looked up at him in horror. ‘I can’t,’ she whispered.
James considered. ‘Right. Let’s land and start again.’ He brought them both down in a controlled landing, so that Lily hardly felt a jolt when she touched the ground.
‘Get off your broom and come over here.’ She left the Nimbus 250 and eyed James’s more powerful Wizster 1000 nervously. James held out a hand and settled her in front of him, one arm securely around her waist. ‘Okay?’
Lily nodded. ‘Okay. But… can we take it quite slowly?’
James kicked off, letting the Wizster circle around the garden, gradually gaining height and speed. Lily’s hair was blowing back into his face and he leaned forward, taking in the fresh, springlike scent of her neck.
‘James!’ She sounded shocked, but not entirely displeased, so he tried kissing her again.
‘James.’ This time she was definitely cross. ‘I thought these were supposed to be flying lessons, not…’
‘Not for me,’ he pointed out. ‘I already know how to fly. I just thought I’d help you relax a bit, take your mind off things. But if you’d rather take over…’ He took his hand off the Wizster which instantly dropped a few feet. Lily screamed, clutching at James and the stick, shutting her eyes and losing her balance.
‘Hey, sweetheart, it’s okay. See?’ He still had his arm firmly around her and the other hand was back on the broomstick which was hovering just above the level of the first floor windows.
Cautiously, Lily opened her eyes and began to breathe again.
‘Don’t… don’t do that again. Please?’
‘Okay. Now I want you to hold on to the broom. Just here. That’s fine.’ He took his hand and put it over Lily’s. ‘I won’t let you do anything silly. Okay? I just want you to know that you’re in charge of this broomstick. You can make it do whatever you want. Aim for that oak tree.’
Lily could see the tree about twenty feet away, on its own in one corner of the garden. Gritting her teeth, she pointed the broomstick towards it and slowly edged across the lawn.
‘Good girl. Now back again, only a bit quicker this time, hey?’
They practised the same move several more times until Lily began to build up a reasonable speed. Then they tried swooping gently down towards the ground before pulling back up into a climb.
An hour later, James took hold of the broom again and steered gently down to the grass.
‘That’s enough for now. You’ll be shattered later.’
‘I already am,’ she yawned, stretching out on the warm grass.
James put the broomsticks away and came to lie beside her.
‘So, if I say we’re having another lesson tomorrow afternoon, what will you say?’ he teased.
Lily blushed, hating to admit how much she’d started to enjoy it. ‘I’ll say… fine, but not until we’ve done at least an hour each on Potions and Charms.’
‘You little slave-driver…’ James reached over and began to tickle her. She rolled back on top of him, running her hand through his spiky, grass covered hair. They stopped laughing and stared at each other for a moment before Lily bent and kissed him.
Much later, when they were having a bedtime cup of cocoa in front of the fire, Lily remembered what she’d meant to ask James earlier. ‘Why do you want me to be able to fly? It’s not just because you’re embarrassed to have a non-Quidditch playing girlfriend, is it?’
James looked into the fire. ‘No. I don’t really know why it seems so important. It’s just that… I suppose we don’t really know what we might need to be able to do if… if we have to fight Voldemort. And it’s the only thing I can do that you can’t. You’ve taught me so much, Lily, and I just wanted to… to be able to give you something as well.’
She slipped an arm around his waist and leaned her head on his shoulder.
‘To think you used to be such a thoughtless, arrogant prat. When did you grow up, James Potter?’
‘Oh, I don’t know. Around January 18th, wasn’t it?’
She smiled and murmured into his ear, ‘I think it was probably long before that. I was just too slow to notice.’
Two days later, when Sirius appeared out of the fireplace for lunch, he hardly recognised Lily. She’d tanned a little and the serious expression she always seemed to have at Hogwarts had disappeared entirely. She was laughing and joking with James and his father and was clearly on the best of terms with Mrs Potter. Still, Sirius’s jaw dropped when she casually announced that after lunch, she and James were practising Quidditch moves in the garden and did he want to join them.
‘That’s enough. I want to see the real Lily Evans now. What have you done with her?’
James grinned and Mrs Potter patted Lily’s arm proudly.
‘They’ve been out every day, Sirius. She’s really coming on, you know. And she’s very good for James. I think he’s practically finished his holiday work already.’
Sirius relaxed. ‘Now that I canbelieve. Right then, Evans. Show me what you’ve got.’
They played two on one, first James and Lily against Sirius then Lily and Sirius against James. It was only the day before that Lily had first been confident enough to try throwing and catching the Quaffle and she still didn’t really like letting go of her broom with both hands. The boys were careful enough in their throws, though, and she was soon charging up the garden and swooping down behind the oak tree to make a catch she’d never have dreamed of trying for three days earlier.
‘Pretty good!’ called Sirius to James. ‘Could maybe have made a Seeker of her if she’d started five years ago.’
‘Yes, that’s what I reckoned, too. Shame, really. We could’ve used a good Seeker instead of me last year. I definitely prefer Chaser.’
While the boys were chatting, Lily had seized the Quaffle and flown round the house to sneak behind them and drop it casually through the hoop. Sirius laughed and put up a hand to greet his triumphant partner. ‘Fifty-twenty! Victory!’
James eyed them meditatively for a moment then went into a sudden dive which knocked both his girlfriend and his best friend off their brooms and into a heap on the ground.
Sirius rolled over, laughing up at James against the blue sky but Lily lay still on her back with her eyes closed. James flew down.
‘All right, sweetheart?’ She made no answer. ‘Sirius!’ James went white, leaning over Lily, trying to check if she was breathing. ‘Fetch Mum. NOW!’ Sirius ran.
‘Come on, darling,’ James murmured, bending over to try to feel a pulse. Lily began to whimper slightly.
‘Can you hear me? Oh Lily, where does it hurt? I’m so sorry, sweetheart.’
She opened her eyes and looked at him.
He continued to look alarmed. ‘Did you hit your head when you landed? Oh God, what have I done? Do you remember who you are? What’s your name, sweetheart?’
‘I’m Lily,’ she whispered. ‘And you are the world’s biggest idiot.’
His eyes opened with sudden understanding.
‘You… you… I thought you were…’ She made a move to escape but he was too quick for her, pushing her back down. They rolled and tickled and fought.
‘Looks like she’s all right now,’ observed Mrs Potter, laughing.
Sirius nodded. ‘Did you say something about scones for tea?’
She tapped him on the arm. ‘Come on. You can help me bring it out.’
By the time the tea was ready and Mr Potter had emerged, carrying his Sunday paper folded under his arm, James had succeeded in pinning Lily to the ground while she was laughing and screaming for help.
She heard someone utter a spell and James was rendered instantly immobile so that Lily was able to push him off her and stand up. She went to join the others at the table, brushing bits of grass off her robes.
‘Did I hear you say there were scones? Oh yes! How delicious.’ She sat between Sirius and James’s father and began to pour the tea.
Mrs Potter was eying her husband in disgust. ‘How you can sit there eating cake like that?’
He raised an eyebrow, looking uncannily like his son. ‘It’s delicious cake, my dear. What else would you like me to do with it?’
‘Aren’t you going to let James up?’
He seemed to consider this for a moment, glanced over at Lily, who shrugged unconcernedly, then helped himself to a flapjack. ‘No, dear, I don’t think I am.’
‘Honestly!’ Mrs Potter reached for her own wand. ‘You’re just as bad as he is. Without the excuse of being a teenager.’ Mr Potter winked at Lily.
‘Finite Incantatum!’ James collapsed onto the grass, groaning. Making a big show of stretching his muscles, he strolled across to his mother, slipping his arm round her waist and kissing her cheek.
‘Thanks, Ma. Good to know somebody cares about me.’
‘Yes, very well. But you should be more careful on that broom of yours. That could have been a very serious accident.’ Mrs Potter sounded very stern, but since she was patting down James’s hair and cutting him a large slice of chocolate cake at the same time, Lily felt he was justified in not taking her warning too seriously.
Spreading a second scone with jam and cream, she looked around the table. It was extraordinary, she thought, how much she felt at home with these people. How right it felt to be included by them. How easy it had been to behave naturally among them. For a second, she caught Sirius’s eye.
‘Amazing, isn’t it?’ he murmured.
Lily looked around to see what he meant.
‘Having a family like this. James, me, you, we’re all lucky.’ She was surprised to hear him echoing her thoughts so closely.